People & Stories Goes National!

Kevin Tidmarsh and Saahil Desai, students at Pomona College in California, investigate the stories of early students of color at their school in the first episode of Hidden Pomona, “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Drawing on Leola Bryant's oral history in our People & Stories Collection, Tidmarsh and Desai chronicle the impact White Plains native and Pomona alumnus Eileen Johnson had on the lives of African-Americans.

From Eileen Johnson's obituary in the August 4, 2002, Journal News: “As a minority and female professional in the corporate world in the 1950s and 1960s, Eileen was a pioneer. In her capacity as a human resources specialist, she made immense contributions to the careers of fellow African-Americans who joined General Foods in those early days. Eileen was similarly very active in numerous civic and local organizations. She was a former President of the Greenburgh Public Library Board of Trustees, former President of the Westchester Chapter of the Links, and former member of the boards of the YMCA, The Westchester County Association, Cardinal McClusky Home, and St. Mary in the Fields. Eileen Johnson was a parishioner at Grace Episcopal Church, White Plains, NY, where she was a member of the vestry. She also served in the Episcopal Diocese of New York as a volunteer in several capacities. Eileen was born in White Plains, NY to the late Dr. Arthur and Edna Bassett Williams. Dr. Williams was the first African-American physician in White Plains. She graduated from Pomona College, California in 1948, the first African-American female graduate and followed in the footsteps of her father who, in 1919, was the first African-American graduate of that college.”

Leola Bryant was one of the women who benefited from Johnson's work at General Foods. “Stranger In A Strange Land” includes a clip of Bryant speaking around the 11:00 mark. You can listen to Bryant's entire oral history here.

Leola Bryant

Leola Bryant

Categories: Local History and Oral History.